The Thriller in November

Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor

   Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.              – Muhammad Ali 

In the annals of sporting and political history alike, few events capture the essence of competition and the human spirit quite like the Thrilla in Manila, the legendary 1975 heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Ohio’s November elections are shaping up to be a certain modern-day political parallel mirroring the fervor and intensity once witnessed in the Philippines with Marcy Kaptur and Derek Merrin at the heart of another spectacle of ideological battles and quests for dominance reminiscent of Ali and Frazier’s unforgettable rumpus.

Ohio’s 9th Congressional District is one of only 13 U.S. House districts represented by a Democrat in 2024 and won by Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Incumbents sought re-election in five of those districts.

Yet, Kaptur, a stalwart in northwest Ohio’s political scene since 1983, finds her traditionally Democratic stronghold challenged by redistricting and Republican vigor, which sees Derek Merrin, a state representative with a strong conservative stance, stepping up to challenge her.

Despite losing a contentious bid for the House speakership to a more moderate contender, Merrin has garnered significant support, including a last-minute endorsement from Trump and substantial financial backing from conservative PACs, enabling him to dominate the March Republican primary against Craig Riedel.

Therefore, this decisive showdown could redefine northwestern Ohio’s political landscape and influence the balance of power in the U.S. Congress.

An Advance Scouting Report

Although Kaptur currently shows a much larger campaign war chest, the prestigious Cook Political Report rates the Kaptur/Merrin race as a toss-up, positing that neither candidate has an advantage.

However, while this is perhaps Kaptur’s most formidable opponent in her lengthy, storied career, many longtime local Republicans seem to feel Merrin is “not the answer” and don’t see Marcy losing.

“Kaptur has always brought abundant resources back to local communities from D.C., creating a valuable cross-party appeal. Many prominent Republicans feel that she brings money back to the district that helps their businesses,” said one local Republican power broker.

In particular, Kaptur has always taken care of farmers like those in heavily Republican Fulton County by making an extra effort to memorize every bit of arcane agricultural policy and join farmers to eat at their customary 4 a.m. breakfasts, which has made her endearing to the rural constituency.

Kaptur’s expected Republican support, particularly for her efforts to assist farmers in Fulton County and her ability to bring back resources benefitting local businesses, suggests a lack of enthusiasm for Merrin’s candidacy among some local GOP members.

At the same time, the Make America Great Again, or “MAGA,” political movement is increasingly unpopular, according to a national NBC News poll. An anti-MAGA movement, in contrast, appears to be gaining swift momentum, suggesting voters may now be experiencing Trump fatigue syndrome, a perceived disdain among centrist voters for those who align with Donald Trump’s style and rhetoric, and the internal battles between the Republican MAGA base and the GOP establishment.

Although Trump-backed candidates prevailed over Governor Mike DeWine’s preferred endorsement in the Ohio primary race for the U.S. Senate, that has not been the case in most other races, suggesting a possible shift in voter priorities away from polarizing or extreme political figures.

Moreover, Derek Merrin is perceived by some within Republican circles as a schismatic figure, primarily due to his role as a disruptor in the wake of Householder’s departure. Advocating for ethics reform, Merrin drew attention from The Blade and positioned himself against many within his party, particularly those who had supported the former Ohio Speaker of the House, Larry Householder.

Merrin’s confrontational stance, especially in the aftermath of the speakership contest where he targeted moderate Republicans after a more centrist speaker was elected with Democratic support, has branded him as a rabble-rouser among his peers. This approach, combined with his perceived inclination towards far-right ideologies, has alienated several moderate Republicans, who view his tactics and political ideology with skepticism.

Finally, Derek Merrin doesn’t seem to possess much name recognition outside of Lucas County, which is his greatest obstacle. Marcy has always been able to go out and get votes in Fulton County, where the bulk of the Republican votes are. There is no question she will carry the solidly blue Lucas County. If she carries Fulton County alone – Lucas and Fulton- she wins.

As voters weary of extremes on both sides of the aisle look to the horizon, the Thriller in November is a testament to the ongoing struggle to define the heart and soul of Ohio’s—and the nation’s—political identity.

In order to win the Thriller in November, the principle of “Floating like a butterfly, stinging like a bee” emerges as a blueprint for success. This strategy emphasizes the importance of strategy and the value of unity in the face of division.

For the anti-MAGA movement and candidates like Kaptur, who seek to transcend the polarizing pandemonium, embracing adaptability and seizing strategic opportunities with precision and confidence could pave the way to victory.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at